Pharmacodynamic dose effects of oral cannabis ingestion in healthy adults who infrequently use cannabis
Schlienz, N. J., Spindle, T. R., Cone, E. J., Herrmann, E. S., Bigelow, G. E., Mitchell, J. M., Flegel, R., LoDico, C., & Vandrey, R. (2020). Pharmacodynamic dose effects of oral cannabis ingestion in healthy adults who infrequently use cannabis. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 211, Article 107969. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.107969
BACKGROUND: Prior controlled cannabis research has mostly focused on smoked cannabis and predominantly included frequent cannabis users. Oral cannabis products ("edibles") make up a large and growing segment of the retail cannabis market. This study sought to characterize the pharmacodynamic effects of oral cannabis among infrequent cannabis users.
METHODS: Seventeen healthy adults who had not used cannabis for at least 60 days completed four experimental sessions in which they consumed a cannabis-infused brownie that contained 0, 10, 25, or 50 mg THC. Subjective effects, vital signs, cognitive/psychomotor performance, and blood THC concentrations were assessed before and for 8 h after dosing.
RESULTS: Relative to placebo, the 10 mg THC dose produced discriminable subjective drug effects and elevated heart rate but did not alter cognitive/psychomotor performance. The 25 and 50 mg THC doses elicited pronounced subjective effects and markedly impaired cognitive and psychomotor functioning compared with placebo. For all active doses, pharmacodynamic effects did not manifest until 30-60 min after ingestion, and peak effects occurred 1.5-3 h post-administration. Blood THC levels were significantly correlated with some pharmacodynamic drug effects, but were substantially lower than what is typically observed after cannabis inhalation.
CONCLUSION: Ingestion of oral cannabis dose-dependently altered subjective drug effects and impaired cognitive performance. Unlike inhaled forms of cannabis for which acute effects occur almost immediately, effects of oral cannabis were considerably delayed. In an era of legalization, education about the time course of drug effects for cannabis edibles is needed to facilitate dose titration and reduce acute overdose incidents.